Sunday, April 4, 2010

Your Understanding of Libraries is Expired, Why I'm Not OK With It .

First of all, credit where credit is due. This blog has existed in my head for a long time. But it wasn't until reading this that I decided to get off my duff and start doing something about what I see as an all too common problem: Libraries and librarians do important, innovative and, in many cases, really cool things... but nobody knows about it. 

Librarians have a lot of attributes.  We are, perhaps, the world's greatest problem solvers.  We are the pied pipers of change and innovation.  We'll do almost anything to connect kids (and adults) to books.  We distribute the currency of information to everyone, equally.  And we make corrective lenses look really, really cool.

But here's the deal.  We do it all very, very quietly and without drawing too much attention to ourselves. And that has got to stop.  

Honestly, it's hard to blame the Generation Y'er (from the link above) who thinks libraries are just smelly places that are easily replaced by a desktop homepage set to Google. My first reaction to her blog was to dismiss her as both ignorant and elitist, but the truth is she's probably neither of those things.  She just doesn't realize or understand what libraries/librarians do.  And, really, who's fault is that?

In 2008, School Library Journal published the Evidence Based Manifesto for School Librarians.  The tag line read:  If school librarians can't prove they make a difference, they may cease to exist. Today, we are seeing that prediction come true, and not just in school libraries.  Making a difference is no longer enough - we must prove that we make a difference.  And we must do it in very public ways.

The manifesto goes on to say two very important things:
The value of a school library can be measured. Learning outcomes, as well as personal, social, and cultural growth, can be documented. 
And...
Evidence of the school library’s crucial role... is not fully understood, nor seen, nor acknowledged by many stakeholders.
This is where WE come in.  We cannot wait until our budgets are being slashed and our jobs are in jeopardy to start making headlines.  Whether you are a school, public or academic librarian, it's time to start tooting your own horn.  

We all know why we are valuable and why we matter. The question is, do the people controlling your budgets/jobs know??  Do the school boards and county commissioners in your neck of the woods know how you and your library contribute to the well-being, literacy and cultural growth of your community?  Are bloggers and twitterers and social networkers talking about your library?  And if they are, are they saying what you want/need them to say?

I wish I could say I knew the answers to all of those questions in regards to my own library presence, but the truth is I don't.  What I do know, however, is that this is where I start ringing that bell.  

I'm tired of being the first one on the chopping block the minute money gets tight, and I'm sure you are too. The fact is, we can't wait around for someone to swoop in and save our library from the fate that has already befallen so many.  We must be our own superhero.  And we must start now.

2 comments:

  1. Jennifer: I appreciate and second your comments.
    However, your setting for a light-colored text makes it very hard to read your posts in Google Reader.

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  2. Jennifer,

    I love your avatar - the caped librarian! Unfortunately it will take super hero efforts to halt the axe before it continues to cut programs and staff.

    Thanks for linking to so many news articles detailing the sad state of public and school libraries. Knowledge is power. I wish that caped librarian crusaders could rush to the rescue of these communities and stop the horror about to happen in them.

    If no one can rescue the programs on the chopping block, perhaps someone will be documenting the downward spiral in student achievement in communities where school libraries are being closed.

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